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The Brad Stevens Challenge

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Back in the day, William F. Buckley used to use his PBS show Firing Line to pose interesting, sometimes quite provocative debate topics. So here's one he might have liked for you to consider: it's harder to replace Brad Stevens at Butler than it will be to replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

Okay, discuss.

Here's what we mean, and keep in mind that we have the greatest respect and admiration for Butler's program.

Although the school has done a phenomenal job of building a program, Butler's options are considerably more limited than are  Duke's.

Start first with Butler's place in the Big East - due almost entirely to Brad Stevens - and Duke's in the ACC, where Duke has won consistently for decades.

Turn next to facilities. We're not comparing the historic arenas; Hinkle is as cool as Cameron. We're talking training facilities, practice facilities, medical resources. When Coach K showed up, all that stuff, except for the medical, was primitive by today's standards. There was no practice facility, and weight training, if it was done, was done in a facility under the pool which was shared not just with other teams (mostly football) but didn't even require an ID to get in.

The new practice facility is pretty extraordinary in many ways and training has also gone high tech. Take for one simple example the fact that Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly could play at a fairly high level without practicing. How was this possible?

Because they could do rehab and workouts on a treadmill which was built into a pool.

Consider also the remarkable care that guys like Curry, Kelly, Elton Brand and Kyrie Irving have received.  Rodney Hood's Achilles tendon is no doubt getting top-flight treatment.

There's a lot to be said for having a world-class medical facility on campus.

When you turn to coaching, Stevens leaves Butler after a legendary six-year run of pretty much genius work. Coach K has been at Duke since 1980 and has a track record second only to John Wooden. From a strictly coaching point of view, 30+ is harder to replace than less than a decade.

Butler has the "Butler way," which means they usually hires from within and it's worked incredibly well. It's also an admission that they can't compete on equal terms against Midwest schools like Indiana, Notre Dame, Purdue and Illinois when it comes to spending money.

If they wanted to go after John Groce or Tom Arnold Crean - they simply can't.

If Duke someday chose to pursue them, there's a reasonable chance they might listen.

Following the Butler way, the Bulldogs have promoted assistant Brandon Miller. Early comments are encouraging: he says he shares a lot with Stevens and former teammates and players are highly enthusiastic.

We hope he's great. We've gotten used to seeing Butler do well. They've come to stand for something very good in college basketball and we hope it never goes away.